Friday, 27 July 2012

RBGE Certificate of Botanical Illustration - end of Week 1

Well, where has this last week gone?  I arrived in Edinburgh last Saturday, feeling some trepidation but also excitement as I made my way to the family I am staying with.

Sunday gave me the chance to explore some of the centre of Edinburgh, but inevitably I made my way to the Royal Botanic Gardens, not able to wait any longer and wanting to see where I would be spending the next two weeks painting / studying. 

I was definately not disappointed as I walked through the gardens.  I was immediately drawn to the glasshouses that have evolved over several eras.  It was like walking into a sweetshop with so many beautiful botanical specimens.  My favourite has to be the glasshouse where the Waterlillies were - spectacular is not the word !

Back to the main reason for coming here, the Certificate in Botanical Illustration.  I have been wanting to return more to botanical illustration for a long time, after all that is the area of art that I started painting in many years ago.  In recent years I have been concentrating more on general natural history illustration and print-making. 

It can be difficult as an artist with some experience to find a suitable course to re-tune our skills.  We should not sit back and just presume we can paint and will carry on doing so at the same level of quality.  I was drawn to the RBGE because of my previous working background in ecology and botany and wanted a botanical illsutration course with an organisation where this was their main working ethos.  The certificate course has enabled me to dip my toe in the water gradually, and I must admit now my toe wants to go deeper and I would love to study for the RBGE Diploma.

The course has taken us back to basics and the students include individuals at all levels.  Exercises have included creating simple line drawings, measuring plant specimens accurately, using the tracing process, studying tone and leading onto the use of paint colours.

Pear tonal study - graphite pencil

Pear tonal study - monochrome paint

Pear - painted study

Colour tests for Pear study

We have been using a limited palette of Winsor and Newton watercolour paints - Perm. Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, Indigo, French Ultramarine, Winsor Lemon and New Gamboge.  Using a palette such as this certainly makes you realise how many additional colours and tones can be created with these few initial paints.

All of the exercises are leading to us creating a plant portrait using all of the methods we have learnt so far and this will take most of next week to complete.  As well as that we have to compile a portfolio as we progress through the course and both of these are assessed to give us our final grade.

Hopefully there will be sometime this weekend to explore more of Edinburgh !


  1. Sounds wonderful Sarah, and the studies are excellent.I would love to visit this garden one day.

    1. Thanks Claire. I explored the garden some more today, it really is wonderful and has exceeded all expectations.

  2. Sounds wonderful Sarah ... I wish we had more classes in botanical art nearby but I have to travel to learn ... hence doing the SBA Distance Course.
    I love seeing work like this - the colour charts, tonal work, finished subject.
    Lovely post xx

  3. Thanks Vicki, glad you liked the post. Know what you mean about courses, I had to fly up here. Only wish I was nearer, they do a whole range of botanical art workshops and courses. Hopefully their distance learning course will get kick-started next year, keeping my fingers crossed !

  4. Sounds like a fascinating course! I was interested to hear of the limited palette that they recommend to start out with. I have been mixing colors from a palette of 3 primaries for most of my work for the SBA course. The 3 I use vary, but one learns a lot from the mixing, and charts help a lot when it comes to choosing the 3 to work with. Best wishes to you!

    1. Thanks ever so much Janene. I have loved going back to a limited palette and will probably stay with it for a while and see how I get on. By the way I loved your recent piece of work for the SBA course, the graphite landscape really helped to give a full story to the picture and the plants were painted beautifully. Happy painting!

  5. Sarah congratulations on your job, I'd like to stay there. Fantastic black and white, very good contrast! Nice green pear. I'm looking forward your next post. Have a nice painting days!
    Ana Amengual

  6. Thanks for your kind comments Ana. The next post will be at the weekend with hopefully some pictures of the final assessment piece. Happy painting, Sarah

  7. Such a beautiful post. Best of luck on you job. The picture first one really so wonderful. Your drawing also awesome. Thanks a lot.


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